The Real Reason for Travel Anxiety

mazHur But / flickr

Source: mazHur But / Flickr

The airport is an unruly place. It’s the opposite world. People who otherwise hardly move sprint to the Cinnabon. Birkenstocks and yoga pants are high fashion. Happy hour starts at 7am. Crossing sleeping adults in fetal position is expected. And all purchases are made within a 400% inflationary market.

The boarding process: Mankind has exited the building

In few other matters is your life status so publicly displayed as during the airline boarding process. This is intentional. Airlines rate us publicly via airport megaphone. It’s a tribune to reward or humiliate customers based on how much money these individuals have that we spend on them. The airline credo? “If you want to travel humanely, you pay.”

All airlines do the same thing: they carry people from one place to another across the troposphere. However, the way they begin their process can vary widely, with the differences being most apparent when it comes to onboarding.

As soon as the gate attendant blows into a hot microphone, people jump into pole position, blocking all avenues to the jetway, ready to flash the ticket scanner. There are notable reasons why we act like stressed billy goats during the boarding process, including the following:

  • mob mentality. One study found that as little as five people can get a crowd of 100 to follow suit.1 At the gate, we abandon common sense and follow these pied pipers to a closed, retractable belt barrier 12 feet away, where we await the next gate announcement.
  • contest. We want to be the first on the plane and the first off. That’s why people run to the aisle of the plane as soon as the seat belts let go. God forbid if a senior or toddler tries to disembark first. It often gets every passenger to himself, as if airports and airplanes are courtesy suckers.
  • impatience. People crowd at the gate in the illusion that this will get them to their destination faster. A better use of the time would be to find space nearby and do some birth squats and jumping jacks to avoid the onset of DVT.

  • luggage compartment. Airplanes almost always have enough luggage space for each passenger. In fact, newer planes have more storage space.2 Yet people will still drop their bags on unsuspecting heads.

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California-based clinical psychologist Tom McDonagh says, “There has been a measurable increase in clients reporting travel anxiety. Customers often express worrying thoughts about what could go wrong on their flight.” This type of cognitive bias is “future stumbling blocks”. “Get in the habit of seeing anxious thoughts as a symptom rather than a reality to help reduce your stress,” McDonagh adds.

Why Can’t Airlines Lose My Emotional Baggage?

Airlines employ the art of fear seeding, so you pay a little more to have your bags checked or opt for earlier boarding. In their defense, airline margins are tight and they depend on such fees to remain profitable. In 2021, US airlines earned an estimated $4.3 billion in baggage fees alone. The scariest thing about flying today is those fees. Which begs the question, “Is that a bag you’re checking or a funeral case?”

To maximize profits, airlines create the illusion of severely limited luggage space while continuing to split boarding groups into thinner and thinner layers. Consider the many stages of the boarding process to understand the psychological game you took part in. United boards in six groups, American has nine, and Delta has 10. You board according to your value to the airline.

I drive “Basic Economy” – the airborne proletariat class. We roll onto the jet bridge like the credits of a sad film. The flight crew avoids eye contact with us, knowing that we barely refueled. Our shame is palpable. In the future, airlines could operate with a range of boarding and seating procedures, e.g. B. include bleachers or remove seats and tie each of us to a standing post. But stay calm, Marco Polo, there are strategies to quell your fear of travel.

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10 tactics for less stressful, if not stress-free, travel

  1. Defy the murmuring lies of fear. “Some people struggle intensely with ‘fear of contagion’. They’re worried about catching Covid on a plane,” says McDonagh. “We try to help these customers by discussing possibility versus probability. When it comes to fear, we often assume too much, but just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s likely.”
  2. Practice makes progress. Before the day of travel, build your risk tolerance to develop resilience to the unknown. Think an overnight or weekend day trip, not Burning Man. The goal is not to make your upcoming trip the first major new experience since Covid and Zoom.
  3. Bring a bug-out bag. Include all the travel-soothing essentials you need for your mental and physical well-being. This can include books, electronics, snacks, medication, that stupid neck pillow, and the contact information of the people in your support circle.
  4. Consider avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Both can leave you feeling dehydrated in a drying core. In addition, they can both increase anxiety. Anxiety kicks in with caffeine, alcohol, and the lack of control over the window blinds.
  5. Normalize the feeling of feeling abnormal. Remember that it is 100% normal to have worries or stress related to travel. While this skill may seem overly simplistic, it is incredibly powerful. Telling yourself, “It makes sense that I feel this way about the situation,” is often the validation your brain needs. Normalize yourself and stay nama who you are.

  6. Name it to tame it. Labeling emotions is a proven way to reduce their intensity. This process uses your prefrontal cortex, which brings your more reasonable, thoughtful self back online. It can down-regulate the brain’s fear center, which contributes to stress. Do this by asking yourself, “How am I feeling about this situation right now?” Talking to yourself is a sign of higher intelligence – especially when referring to yourself in the third person.3 But use a sock puppet if you want to make a statement.

  7. breathing. An effective way to shift from the fight-or-flight response to the rest-and-digestion state is the physiological sigh.4 Take a short breath in through your nose, pause for a moment, and then breathe in through your nose again. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. It’s a process our body naturally performs when it calms down from an emotional experience. Imagine a small child or a politician at the end of a crying fit and you can see the double take that happens naturally. Make 5-10 physiological sighs as needed.

  8. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Muscle tension contributes to stress. To reduce muscle tension, intentionally tense your muscles for 30-60 seconds. This constriction causes the muscle to be less tense after the constriction period. While sitting, try to focus on one muscle group at a time, such as B. Your feet/lower legs and work your way up the body. Flying Frankie says relax.

  9. assumption. Acceptance does not mean agreement. Just acknowledge things as they are in the moment. Boarding delays, limited legroom and toilet queues will likely be part of the experience. Acceptance eliminates unnecessary suffering. Acceptance challenge accepted!

  10. Don’t fall asleep before the food truck gets to your row.

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When someone does Christmas shopping for me, I’m a big “window seat.”

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